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Kitchen: Progress

March 28, 2014

I finally updated the ‘kitchen’ page. Click on the navigation bar above and select kitchen to take a look at all of the progress we have made so far and some scary before photos.

Coming on up the blog:

  • Kitchen hardware
  • Counter installation part 2
  • Backsplash inspiration
  • Backsplash installed ( hopefully in the next two weeks!)

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Bats & Balusters

March 21, 2014

Have you seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks? If not, you should. It’s entertaining and makes me want to own a brass bed.  It also inspired the title of this post, Bats and Balusters. Now, unlike the movie this post doesn’t involve magic or saving England, but it does involve flying and architectural details. That counts, right?

So…..we have bats. Just writing that is like coming to terms with a problem we have been denying for a while, but can’t anymore…like I am at my first meeting of vermin anonymous.

“Hi, my name is Rachel and I have bats. I have a problem. I renovate old houses…it’s a compulsion. More often than not, there are unwanted pests in the homes we renovate. Recently, the problem has escalated, and now….we have bats.”

OK, OK….it’s not that bad. I actually think bats are really cute. Like little furry mice with wings. They also make cute sounds. Well, actually the sounds are only cute when it is the middle of the day and you and your cat are in the basement looking for the correct wrench to take apart the kitchen sink, and then you hear light chirping from the corner of the room towards the ceiling and realize the bats have woken up….again. The cat proceeds to go crazy and you look around with a flashlight to find them or it, with no luck because no one ever finds a bat this way, and then give up and leave the cat to search it out.

Clearly these are fruit bats of some sort, but they are super cute so I used the picture. http://idreaminacres.typepad.com/blog/2011/03/how-could-you-not-love-bats-warning-cute-overload.html

Bat sounds are not cute when you are home alone, and it’s 1am on Saturday, and you are sitting on the couch blogging and looking up nonsense on Pinterest because now that you are an adult this a totally acceptable way to spend the weekend. Suddenly you hear squeaking and chirping and scratching sounds coming from the corner. The cat and dog rush over, noses to the floorboards to check out whatever it is that is making that noise. You, frozen in your spot on the couch, zip through the internet with searches consisting of, ” scratchy sounds in floor, old house, winter, pests”. Surprisingly there are a lot of hits, and after bravely crawling across the floor with your iPhone to record the squeaks and chirps, you confirm that you have bats.

You then proceed to go upstairs and lie awake in bed thinking about the bats hanging out in the floor joists and wall cavities. ::shiver::

This winter has been a rollercoaster of subzero and balmy temperatures. Apparently the bats hunker down in the attic during the autumn months, and as the temperatures dip they move further down into the wall cavities to stay warm. When the temperatures rebound for a day or two, the bats wake up, stretch their wings and pop out for a drink of water before returning to snooze away the winter. The instances that I heard them chirping in the walls and floor was always just after a brief warming in temperatures.

What to do about it? Well nothing up until now. It was winter and there is no way to get them out of the house without killing them, which is mean since they really aren’t doing anything and it’s also illegal. Once things warm up completely and the bats are done hibernating, I will have to figure out where they are getting in and out. One-way doors can be fashioned over their entrances so they can leave for the evening, but not come back. Basically I have to evict them without notice. Adding some bat boxes to the larger trees in the backyard will be a plan this summer, because after all, they are pretty cute AND they eat mosquitos. As long as they aren’t trying to be unwelcome house guests, I would be happy for them to ‘hang around’. :)

Oh, about the balusters. Per usual, I knocked a few holes in the wall – this time on the landing – where I thought there might have been hidden balusters that were covered up with drywall. This was a negative. This time I did the damage when the Hubs was home, so I had to use a drill with a spade bit to make it cleaner and not so destructive. It was a fair compromise since hanging a picture 2 feet off of the ground to cover the hole I would have made with a hammer would look strange. Sure I can patch, sand, and paint any hole that I make – I’m a pro at it now. You know what though, I intend to take down the 1/2 wall and put up balusters one day, so why patch something I plan to demolish? Also, the current holes are perfect for bat watching. :)

Cheers,

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Losing My Marble(s)…

March 17, 2014
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At this point the installers left. I became flustered, upset and hypertensive.

It only seemed fair that something go wrong at this point in the kitchen renovation.

Everything had been moving along fairly smoothly and without too much incident. Sure there were pipes and duct work in unexpected places, and we found a colony of mice living in the floor which was slanted, dippy, and bouncy like a trampoline. We live in an old house though, circa 1931, and no good renovation takes place without a few surprises that make for great stories at those fabulous cocktail parties we intend to host once this never ending pas de deux with the kitchen is over.

We are past all of the major remodeling, and the remaining projects consist of installations of new surfaces. This incorrectly lead me to believe that we were out of the woods, moving towards the bright grassy pastures of marble counters and herringbone backsplash. Not even close.

Last week I was on Instagram, bopping around, giddy with excitement that the marble countertops were finally going in. I thought by that evening we would be sipping wine, leaning on the cool white stone, feeling very impressed with our choice of materials, and happy that we were that much closer to finishing the last few projects left to make the kitchen complete.  Not so my friends, not so.

Let me step back a moment and tell you what actually happened:

Towards the end of February we had saved enough money to ditch the temporary laminate countertops we picked up at Lowes (and free sink/faucet combo I found by the side of the road one morning during a run when the temperatures spiked above 20° C) we had been using since December and seriously start looking for a company to install the countertops.

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temporary laminate counters and freebie sink

I called every place I could find in SE Michigan that stocked white Italian/ white Carrara marble in a honed finish. Honed is the key word here. Polished marble etches very easily and noticeably, honed marble already has a matte finish so etching is much more difficult to see or notice at all. Our master bathroom has a marble countertop that in 1968 was shiny and polished, but now in 2014 is muted and honed. It’s really beautiful and we are not careful with it at all (spills, chemicals etc..).

I found a company with great reviews, good-looking stone, and a choice of marble or honed finish – no extra charge. Some places charge for a honed finish because they only stock polished. I waited for a new batch of honed stock to come in, and zipped up to the warehouse to pick out my slabs.

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Ummm, yes. They had exactly what I wanted, and I picked out the two slabs above. One for the island and one for the countertops.

After hours of Pinteresting I decided that a standard edge detail, with a ogee edge on the island would be the way to go.

Installation day came 3 weeks later. When I shared this photo with my Instagram followers:

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How can anyone be displeased with this! Well, shortly after the island went on a succession of bad things happened:

  • The piece by the cooktop wouldn’t fit, the installers decided to cut into the wall to make it fit, which resulted in a damaged wall that didn’t look very good and a big scratch in the marble.
  • Once the stone had been jammed into the wall somewhat unsuccessfully, the cooktop cut out didn’t line up with the cabinets any more, and so they cut down the cabinet. Yes, this also looked terrible, and made for a cooktop that didn’t line up with the range hood.

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  • Then when they were seaming the pieces of marble together, by filling the gap with epoxy, clamping it together with another block of stone and a c-clamp, a huge chunk of the countertop ripped out when the clamp and block were removed.
  • At this point our options were for them to remove the whole piece to the right of the stove top, or to cut out the small piece across the front they had seamed together. Since our cabinet had just been butchered to make the piece to the right of the stove fit, we opted for the small front piece to be removed and then replaced.

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  • The installers moved on to clamp the seam at the sink and then did this. They clamped it improperly and the stone crushed beneath the surface leaving these ugly white marks that can never be removed.

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At this point the installers left. I became flustered, upset and hypertensive. I snapped a few photos and emailed the manager with my concerns, and let’s be real – my utter dissatisfaction with their work, and demands for it to be fixed. There was no wine sipping, casual leaning, or pats on the back happening – not even close.

The silver lining in all of this – they company is planning to replace countertops at no cost sometime in the next two weeks, and pay for any plumbing etc… we need to have done to hook-up and disconnect the faucet and cooktop. We did the hook-up ourselves of course, so I don’t think that part will be necessary.

In the meantime, I get to play around with the marble and see how it takes stains and abuse until the new countertops arrive. I will have to make the drive back out to the warehouse to choose another slab, and we will have to deal with a second install day – which will hopefully go as planned with no issues.

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Cheers,

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Single Handle or Two?…Opinions Needed!

March 5, 2014
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Help!

I am stuck between these two faucets for our kitchen remodel. I have to decide ASAP because the countertops will be installed next week, and well, they kinda sorta need to know what faucet I am going to buy so they can put the holes in the appropriate places.

This means…..that I pretty much have to order it by tomorrow, second day shipping. Procrastination and indecision has brought me to this point, so, your opinions please.

I was all set to order this faucet:

Danze faucet

It’s nice right? It’s what I had on my mood board. While I was perusing the internet for the best possible price I kept see faucets like this that I could never afford:

Out of stock faucet

I’ve been seduced by the bridge style faucet, even though I originally thought having a two handle faucet in the kitchen would be a pain.  Once I started to think about it though, I don’t think it would be an issue to have to blend the hot/cold, even with messy hands…..or am I just talking myself into it? Bah! The symmetry of the bridge style is so much more appealing to the eye than the single handle.

The bridge style wouldn’t even be an option, but of course I found an affordable faucet that looks just like this:

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Which is really a crappy photo of a really nice faucet. It will actually look like this in person (obviously I see there is a different neck style in the photo below, but you get the idea):

Clearly the blogger who installed this faucet has excellent taste :) Brass and marble – a women after my own heart. You can click on the picture for a link to her blog (which hopefully she doesn’t mind that I am sharing).

The question is:

  • Single handle or two?
  • Will two handles make me crazy?

I needed to order this like yesterday, so, comments please!

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P.S. I’m set on brass – so please don’t try to talk me out of it in the chance it just makes me more confused.

Kitchen Cabinet: Installation

February 28, 2014
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The cabinet installation is finished and this step has really set the stage for how the completed kitchen will look. It is such a drastic change from the old maple cabinetry that was here before we started the remodel. Which my beloved blog readers, is a very, very good thing.

Do you remember when I put the mood board together for the kitchen? I couldn’t explain the decision to go with dark wood cabinets any better if I tried say it again:

We knew that dark cabinets were the way to go for us – we live in a 1930s Tudor revival that has dark woodwork throughout the house. We want the kitchen to feel like it’s part of the home, not like it dropped out of the sky. Shenandoah has the right style, door color and price for our project, and so, we went with the McKinley door in Cherry Bordeaux. We are going to have solid cherry cabinets in the kitchen! Can you tell I am excited?

Once the cabinets were delivered in December, I wrote a post detailing the whole process of selection and layout. That post can be found here.

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So……clearly we still have a lot of work to do. You know what though, we’re just taking it in stride…being able to cook food and not have everything draped in plastic is a huge improvement in and of itself.

I also just realized I never shared the details on selecting the cabinet hardware, which by the way, might be my most favorite part of the whole kitchen. I’m making a note to write a future post on just that. :)

Cheers!

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Refinishing the floors: Before & After

February 7, 2014

When we bought this house we knew it needed a lot of work. I mean a whole lot of work. The basement was 1/2 crawl space with musty earth open to the rest of the house which was letting creepy crawly things, moisture, mold and mice in. All of the original light fixtures had been removed, and the house had been thoroughly remuddled by the last owners. The bathrooms were outdated and the kitchen was a wreck (filthy doesn’t even begin to describe it). On top of all of that, the hardwood floors were scratched and stained.  We loved the house even with all of it’s flaws.

We decided to take care of two things before we moved in:

  • the dank, dark, creepy crawl space (a topic for another post)
  • refinishing the hardwood floors

The floors were in such bad shape, we knew they should be done right away, and having it taken care of before we moved in only made sense. Once all of the boxes, rugs and furniture were inside, we were never going to get it done. We were able to have the work done while we were out of the country – which is also in a story in and of itself….for another post.

I looovveee dark floors. I wanted the floors really really really dark. Almost black. I realized after talking to the floor guy (because you know we had enough DIY projects of our own to do) that since our floors are oak, we would never achieve the uniformly dark colors that walnut or cherry provide, the grain just doesn’t take stain the same way. I know this – but I thought there still might have been a chance.

The hubs and I narrowed our choices down to these colors:

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Stain colors from left to right: Jacobean, Antique Brown, Red Mahogany

We decided on Antique Brown after an Instagram poll with my reliable blogger buddies. Antique brown is a deep warm brown without too much red.

Feast your eyes on the before and afters (before is after the floors were sanded). This is also the first time you are able to see most of the house – enjoy!

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I think the color turned out really well, and it’s a spot on match to the baseboard color. We had the floor guy do the top coat in a satin, but after living in the house for a few months, the floors were really just lacking luster, and if I had just walked into the house, I wouldn’t have known that the floors had recently be redone.

Sooooo….I picked up some of this in the grocery store the other day.

floor polish

I washed the floors, and wiped it on with a damp mop. 30 minutes later the floor was dry, reflective, evenly glossy and gorgeous. The shine lasts through foot traffic and washings. It was an instant transformation, and you can add as many coats as you want to increase the level of shine. One coat was just fine for me. I wish I was being paid to post this – I am not. If someone wants to pay me – please do :) . I’ve only used about 1/2 of the bottle too. This stuff is great! Here is a picture where you can see the difference between polish and no polish. I stop right at the edge of the rug. What do you think?

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Cheers, and happy Friday.

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Dining Room Redo: Shiny Gold Fancy Things

January 22, 2014

I thought I would take a break from the onslaught of kitchen posts because, well, even I had to take a break from the project to work on another room of the house.

I haven’t really figured out how I want to decorate every room (colors, fabrics, furniture) except for the dining room. I’m a sucker for formality (blame my mother) and since we plan on living in the house for a long, long time, I wanted to do something dramatic and completely ‘me’. If our house was a closet, the dining room would be the classic navy brass button blazer you wear for all those preppy occasions. Hahaha, oh my goodness…I just wrote that! Somebody shake me.

A mood board wasn’t necessary for this room because Pinterest was full of inspiring images. Here is a sample:

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If you didn’t know this about me already – I like fancy gold things. Not everyone’s taste, I know. When I saw the navy/ gold combination in the images above, along with sparkly crystal and dark wood, it was screaming “Rachel!!! You have all of these elements somewhere in the house, combine them already!” If you hear the same words when you look at these images, you should check out this blog http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/.  The writer also has a penchant for fancy gold shiny things. A kindred spirit in the blog world….I digress….

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Chandelier:

I found the vintage crystal chandelier on Craigslist. Ever since I discovered the Craigslist app, I have become a complete addict – checking the antique listing about 100 times a day. It’s paid off which some amazing deals on furniture and lighting though – so I justify the distraction.

Table:

The table is a Craigslist find too! I told you that website is a gold mine. I’m completely blown away by the things people are selling on there. It’s solid mahogany, Empire style, with brass feet. Brass is back! It didn’t have chairs, which was OK because my mother, who is a chair-a-holic (just kidding Mom!) conveniently had been collecting Empire chairs over the years. She gifted them to us as a house-warming present. They need a little bit of work, and have to be reupholstered in matching fabric, but they are just perfect with the table!

Paint:

I put up a few samples, and polled my trusty Instagram blogger circle and all votes were for Benjamin Moore, Hale Navy. The Hubs thought it was going to be too dark and look black, but it turned out sooooooo well. Also, the hardware store had a paint isle catastrophe/avalanche so the Benjamin Moore paint was all discounted because the cans were dented and splattered in the fall. I scored a gallon of satin in the Aura line for the price of Regal. Such a good deal. I could definitely tell the difference when I was painting. I did not use a primer and only had to do one coat! This is insane considering I was painting navy blue over a white wall.

Mirror:

I picked the mirror up at a local consignment shop, and refreshed it with gold leaf. Pretty good find for $40.

Art Work:

The prints and paintings are all from flea markets or thrift stores. We picked up the bird prints at an antique flea market in Belgium this autumn.

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So what do you think? I don’t have a real camera, so I’m shooting with my iPhone. It does make it difficult to get good shots when it’s really sunny, or very cloudy. During this time of year, it’s one or the other so I opted for sunny. I still need to make drapes ( silk…..not sure of the color yet) and hang a few more pictures…..and the ceiling needs to be replastered and the baseboards need to be stripped and stained. So, it’s you know, at 80% done. Just where I like to leave a project before I start a new one :) .

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